April 24, 2014

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victor young at paramount





I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Victor Young is the most unappreciated composer that Hollywood has ever had. He was an assembly line producing score after score with songs that have become standards. Bill Evans, a favorite of mine in the jazz world, recorded Young compositions and turned them into jazz standards. Henry Mancini, who Victor Young helped get a start in Hollywood, wrote an incredible suite of his hits and reintroduced many to his talents.
APPOINTMENT WITH DANGER (1950) starred Alan Ladd, Phyllis Thaxter, Harry Morgan, and Jack Webb. Ladd was a postal agent attempting to break up a million dollar robbery. Thaxter was a nun who saw more than she should have and Webb and Morgan played thugs. The movie which is free to watch on the internet will really help you understand the score. The “Prelude” which is included as an audio clip sets the tone for the picture with train motion a military theme and a sentimental theme for the relationship between Ladd and Thaxter. Source material music is prevalent which includes “ Tantum Ergo,” a child choir, “Symphony No. 1,” a Young arrangement of Brahms 1st Symphony, a scene where the radio is turned up, and “Lonely Am I/Slow Bus to Memphis” a bop number and a slow dance tune which are played on records. All of this shows the versatility of Young and his attention to details. The underscore material is well written and certainly of interest.
THE ACCUSED (1949) had a controversial story for its day dealing with a student who sexually attacks his teacher is killed in self defense but the teacher not only tries to cover it up but falls in love with his best friend. May I say it is a typical Loretta Young melodrama? Robert Cummings, Wendell Corey, and Sam Jaffe also star. The theme is a pretty one with a style that will make you recognize his compositions Golden Earrings and Stella By Starlight.
SEPTEMBER AFFAIR (1950) had a bit of a twist in the plot where a plane crash allows two lovers in there autumn years to disappear into the sunset. It starred Joseph Cotton, Joan Fontaine, and Jessica Tandy. Part of the score was the famous song September Song (Weill/Anderson) which Young nicely incorporates into six of the cues. This is a beautiful song lushly done with his singing strings, Young’s trademark when he recorded for Decca records. Other tracks feature a travel log of European sounds from Italy and other countries.
Fans of Victor Young will welcome these new soundtracks as a welcome addition to their collections. The average soundtrack collector will likely pass on this release as we can’t have everything. This release is limited to 1000 copies. Sound quality is fine for films made in the late forties and fifties.

Track listing:

1. Prelude (1:13)
2. Ferrar Enters the Act (1:18)
3. Tantum Ergo (Traditional)/Organ (2:14)
4. Soderquist’s Swan Song/Ferrar’s Bad Manners (1:16)
5. Goddard Plays Guinea Pig (1:54)
6. Symphony No. 1 (excerpt) (Brahms) (1:54)
7. Lonely Am I (Lilley)/Slow Bus to Memphis (1:35)
8. The Ferrar Chase/Bridge to Hotel (2:23)
9. The Clever Defense/The Boner (2:08
10. Regas Follows Nun (Bridge) (1:07)
11. The Mail Robbery (2:57)
12. The Short Straw (1:06)
13. Cops and Robbers (3:48)
14. Finale and End Cast (0:39)
15. Prelude (1:08)
16. Shimmer/Bill’s Guardian (1:32)
17. The Convalescent (1:30)
18. The Vacant Chair (2:15)
19. Cocktail Lounge–Radio Music (2:00)
20. Cyclothymiac Cutie/Hall of Justice (2:18)
21. Gypsy Violins (1:35)
22. Heart to Heart Talk (4:45)
23. End Title (0:35)
Tracks 15-23 from THE ACCUSED
24. Rome 1948 (1:43)
25. The Naples Tour (2:17)
26. Pompeii Tour* (2:08)
27. Capri Tour* (5:42)
28. The Letter** (1:47)
29. Avenue of Obscurity** (2:11)
30. The Telegram**/The New Love and the Old* (3:24)
31. Maria**/Return Home and Finale* (3:15)

*includes “September Song” by Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson
**based on “September Song” by Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson
Tracks 24-31 from SEPTEMBER AFFAIR





tchaikovsky 55


Written in 1864 while Tchaikovsky was still a student as an assignment to do an overture for an opera, he wrote the overture based on a play by Ostrovsky Groza. Tchaikovsky met Ostrovsky as a result of his love for card playing. The work wasn’t performed during his lifetime, the first performance being conducted by Alexander Glazunov in 1896. Given the higher opus number Tchaikovsky reworked this piece and the result is a very listenable dramatic piece. What Rubinstein was brutally critical about, Cui called it “a museum of anti-musical curiosities,” John Warrack, a biographer of Tchaikovsky, called it “a remarkable powerful work….”
The work uses a Russian folksong that Mussorgsky also used in his Khovanshchinai and Tchaikovsky recycled in his seldom played Overture in F Minor, that wasn’t discovered until 1922. There is a similarity in style and orchestration to his often played Romeo and Juliet. There are storm sequences with swirling ominous strings and loud percussion and brass. There are two quiet scenes which offer themes on a romantic dreamy level but you’ll learn as you listen to this work that it is an emotional rollercoaster. Not any one theme lasts and is developed for any length of time.
There are several recordings of this work and the time varies between 11 and 14 minutes. While the Chandos recording has a biting snappy quality to it there is nothing negative about the Brilliant recording and at a little over $2.00 it is quite a bargain.

tchaikovsky 55

Not to be confused with the incidental music he wrote for the play which is opus 67b, the overture was written in 1888 and followed similar ideas he used in “Romeo and Juliet” and “The Tempest.” It was dedicated to Edvard Grieg who he met in 1888 and took an instant liking to. Like so many of Tchaikovsky’s works it is filled with emotional turmoil, conflict, love, and a conclusion that ties together the piece that your listening to.
It begins with a loud resonating drum roll from the timpani, a prelude to a dark dramatic theme that as it’s developed is taken through a series of inner conflict. I’m reminded of an upcoming storm as the wind is blowing. A second theme is developed with swirling strings positive brass harmony from the trumpets and trombones. As quickly as it comes to a conclusion it gives way to the oboe and a third theme this one on the tranquil side. The other winds provide unique harmony for it as it segues to the strings who add a bit of romance to it. These are happy times. The trumpets offer a fanfare with excellent trombone harmony as it seques into another conflict of good over evil. The good prevails as the oboe offers the same serene theme again. Tchaikovsky as ending returns to the original theme as he often does in his works and brings a frenzy to a peak. He ends the work on a somber funeral like note as you hear the lower strings and timpani fade into silence.
The performance of the Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra of Moscow Radio conducted by Vladimir Fedoseyev, a tchaikovsian, offers a tempo that isn’t rushed. The orchestra members know the work and their playing shows this. This is an excellent performance and a worthy addition to the 55CD Tchaikovsky box set.

The Tempest/Tchaikovsky

April 11, 2014

tchaikovsky vox box




The Vox Music Group was known to classical fans as the budget label in the 70’s. If memory serves me correctly Tower and another local classical shop sold them at 2 for $5.00. They used orchestras, conductors, and soloists who were not as well known, their vinyl had noise issues, warpage, and other little quirks but they offered some material that was not often recorded. I probably had well over a 100 in my collection. Over 20 years ago they introduced many of their old recordings in Vox Box collections consisting of 2 and 3 CD’s at an attractive price. This set offers in addition to the Manfred some of his lesser known orchestral works. The Tempest recording fits into that category. It is based on the work of Shakespeare and was composed in a mere 11 days in 1873. First performed in December of 1873 at a Moscow Russian Musical Society concert conducted by Nicholai Rubinstein and was an instant success. While Tchaikovsky was on tour he often performed this work. The years have not kind to it and it is seldom performed. Richard Freed, the author of the liner notes offers a reason that it is far too similar in style to his popular “Romeo and Juliet.”

The twenty minute work is divided into three sections: storm, magic island/love theme, and the leaving of the island to the sea. The storm is as you would think a violent depiction of a ship at sea floundering with the wind blowing gale force and the ship beginning to sink. It begins with an andante heroic theme with the horns playing the melody. It is an introduction that segues into the storm sequence as the tempo picks up. One can hear the influence that Tchaikovsky must have had on a young Rimsky Korsakov. This plays out like a Wagner opera. The second section offers the love theme which is similar in orchestration and style to “Romeo and Juliet.” While not as memorable a theme it still is a good one and enhances the tone poem. The third section is a combination of the turmoil of the sea with the peace and tranquility of two couples in love who row off into the sunset.

The work is definitely one that would be nice to have in your collection. The performance and recording of the Bochum Symphony conducted by Othmar Maga is adequate. There are other recordings available.



play it again

SONY MASTERWORK 88843 03384 2

Theme From Peyton Place


On April 1st Sony Masterworks released a two CD set called Play It Again Sam The Classic Sound of Hollywood a little different compilation featuring such conductors as Charles Gerhardt, Maurice Jarre, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Elmer Bernstein, John Williams, Arthur Fiedler, and Ennio Morricone. The tracks selected span a 40 year time period from “King Kong” to “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” They dug deep into the vaults to find such selections as “The Thing,” “Peyton Place,” and “Salome.” The CD which is available from Amazon for $17.00 is an excellent choice for the listener who wants a taste of my favorite soundtrack material Golden Age and several selections of material are included and performed by Charles Gerhardt and the National Philharmonic. I can’t stress enough the superior recording, arranging, and performing such classic works as Max Steiner’s “King Kong (1933)” The seven plus minute track includes the main title, aborigine dance, and Kong’s appearance on stage in New York. This was one of the first major studio releases (RKO) that had 60 minutes of original music. I have it ranked as one of the top three scores of all time. “Salome” is a treat with its oriental mysticism remind me of a mature Rimsky-Korsakov with ear attention harp glissandos. With “Of Human Bondage” and “Between Two Worlds” you’ll hear the classic golden age sound that helped make there lavish productions even more extravagant with music you’ll walk away from the theater humming. Another seldom heard sleeper “The Thing From Another World” from multi award winning Dimitri Tiomkin is a departure from the brash dissonance of so many of the ‘B’ movies. Tiomkin was classically trained by Alexander Glazunov and it shows in this ten minute suite. Yes the theremin was used as it was in films of this genre especially in this time period. And I must certainly classify this one as an A- picture. Of course you’ll also hear your favorites from “Lawrence of Arabia,” “Gone With the Wind,” and “Breakfast At Tiffany’s.”
Track Listing:
Peyton Place (3:23)
The Thing (10:34)
Salome (5:06)
Of Human Bondage (12:28)
Between Two Worlds (7:34)
The Sea Hawk (15:37)
Total Time: 54:40
Gone With the Wind (3:06)
Doctor Zhivago (5:16)
Psycho (1:01)
Lawrence of Arabia (4:30)
The Magnificent Seven (3:59)
Vertigo (6:44)
Casablanca ( (8:43)
The Good,The Bad, and The Ugly (3:07)
Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (3:29)
King Kong (7:23)
Ben Hur (3:42)
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (2:42)
Total Time: 54:22

  runner stumbles

BSXCD 8943


When I think of Ernest Gold I also think of Exodus, his Oscar winning film which has been recorded and included on 100’s of compilation releases over the years. He has done so much more that I need to revisit some of his scores which I’ve neglected to do.

Gold (1921-1999) was born in Austria and became a child prodigy like Korngold at an early age. His jewish heritage didn’t sit well and while attending the state academy of music in Vienna the family fled from Europe in 1938 to America to escape the hatred of Hitler for the jews. He eventually found his way to Hollywood and composed there from 1945-1992, over 100 films. Early on he did a lot of work for Lippert, Republic, and the Columbia ‘B’ unit. One of the films he did was The Land Unknown for Lippert which I have in my modest collection of films. It is nothing but ordinary. His scores got a whole lot better and this first time CD release to Sometimes the Runner Stumbles, starring Dick Van Dyke, Kathleen Quinlan, Maureen Stapleton, Ray Bolger, and Tammy Grimes told the story of a relationship between priest and nun.

“Main Title” begins with two themes that are dominant in the score. It is a string and wind ensemble without brass or percussion. The oboe begins a religious feeling theme very quiet. It segues into a variation of the second theme “My Rumble Seat Gal” and then the strings give the main title a lush treatment. “When Did She Arrive?/ The Tour” is a full on romantic treatment of the main theme with solos from the oboe and harp. “My Rumble Seat Gal” is a young female chorus with trumpets carrying the melody. It is repeated in other tracks sometimes a brass band style with a hint of cymbals. The lyrics which are clever were written by Mrs. Gold. “What About Your Responsibility” features religious overtones with the use of the organ. The orchestrations are well done and feature classical references such as a minuet, and a funeral like adagio. Gold makes the best out of a small ensemble and manages to give it a much fuller sound. Many of the tracks are less than 20 members.

Fans of Gold will find this to be a welcome addition to their collection and others who are more into a laid back easy on the nerves listening will certainly enjoy this. I’ve included an audio clip of the main title.

Track Listing:
1…. The Runner Stumbles Main Title (1:53)
2…. When Did She Arrive?/The Tour (4:26)
3…. Solona Evangelical Methodist (0:26)
4…. My Rumble Seat Gal (1:04)
5…. Flowers (1:01)
6…. Visiting the Webbers (2:55)
7…. Sister Rita’s Idea (0:39)
8…. What About your Responsibility to the Children (1:25)
9…. Living Arrangements (2:11)
10.. Coming in Sisters (3:36)
11.. Monsignor Nicholson Arrives/I Sleep in the Convent (2:27)
12.. Do You Want Me To Leave? (1:51)
13.. I love You Sister (0:45)
14. Praying with Erna (1:24)
15.. The Confessional (0:55)
16.. Your Sins Are Forgiven (2:58)
17.. There’s Nothing Human About You (0:53)
18.. The Letter and the Fire (4:20)
19.. Rita Declares Her Love for Father Brian (4:40)
20.. Mrs. Shandig’s Confession/Peace Be With You Father/End Credits (6:31)
Total Time 47:07